History

Various writings on historical topics

Gideon Rachman: The wrong lessons from Munich

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An oft-repeated cliche is how Neville Chamberlain appeased Adolf Hitler in 1938 in the Munich conference. By doing so, Chamberlain caused Czecksolvakia to be swallowed by the Nazis, and World War II ensued.

Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times writes about how this repeated mantra in today's politics is the wrong lesson learned, and details several cases from recent history of how this is indeed not the case, and that it can cause more harm to "be tough".

 

PBS Documentary: Cities of Light: Islamic Spain documentary

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A new PBS documentary about Muslim Spain aired on August 22, 2007. The PBS web site does not have much info on the topic.

Islamic Spain was the closest thing to what is today a multicultural society. Jews, Christians and Muslims lived together, and excellent achievements were made in the fields of culture, art, poetry, astronomy, medicine, agriculture, commerce, and much more. This period is known in modern Spanish as La Convivencia (the co-existence).

Jewish ancestry as a slander: Che Guevara as a recent example

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Over the years, I have seen many people getting "accused" of having Jewish ancestry by their political adversaries. This tactic is used to discredit the person, throw doubts on their loyalty, and attribute undefined ulterior motives for their often controvertial actions.

These rumors are appealing to the masses because it offers a simple (wrong) answer to complex questions (actions of leaders).

People that I have seen in the Arab region and the Middle East accused of this include:

Historical Islamic Cooking: Andalusian and Baghdadi Recipes

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When studying history, we often look for literature, archeology, events, and the like. Seldom do we consider food and recipes to be a topic of history.

However, there are several sites that have recipes from olden days. Some of them have a nice collection of recipes from Islamic countries, most notably Iraq and Andalusia.

These recipes go back all the way to the 10th century, when Baghdad was the seat of the Islamic Caliphate, in the Golden Age of Islam in the East. The Andalusian recipes go further into the 15th century, just before the fall of Granada.

Two examples of brave men sacrificing their sons

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Two characters from history, from different places, but a similar deed that earned them an everlasting legacy: each sacrificed his son when asked to compromise his principles.

Al Samaw'al ibn Adiya السموأل بن عاديا

Shmuel was a Jew who lived in northern Arabia in the first half of the 6th century C.E. His mother was of royal descent, being from Ghassan. He had considerable wealth, enabling him to live in a private fort, Al-Ablaq الأبلق founded by his predecessor, Adiya. As with most of his contemporaries, he was also a poet.

Arabic medieval block printing: a lost art

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Since 1894, several Arabic block printed charms were known by various researchers. Arabic Verses by two Arab poets, Abu Dulaf Al Khazraji أبو دلف الخزرجي, from the 10th century and Safeyudin al-Hilli صفي الدين الحلي from the 14th century suggest that that the term they used, tarsh, is for the print block technology.

The charms or amulets are similar to modern day hijabs حجاب written for superstitious gullible people by greedy quacks pretending to be holy men. 

Two examples of real Bogeymen in History: Hannibal Barca and Al-Azraq

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What does a 2nd century B.C. Carthaginian general and a 13th century Spanish Muslim commander have in common? Separated by 1,500 years, there are more in common than would meet the eye.

Bogeymen and Monsters

In every culture, there are imaginary monsters or bogeymen that parents use to scare children. For example, in rural Egypt children are told not to play near water canals, otherwise El Nadaha (النداهة "The caller, The Siren") would lure them and drown them.

Although many of them are the stuff of legends, some of them have real historic roots.

Two examples from history, and their similarities are discussed below.

Panem et circenses: Americans know pop culture but not current events

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A recent poll commissioned by a upcoming reality TV show confirmed that Americans are more likely to know pop culture factoids, but not news, classical literature, science or history.

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The poll found that:

  • About 77 per cent of Americans can name at least two of the dwarfs from the fairy tale Snow White, but only about 24 per cent can name two U.S. Supreme Court justices.
  • 57 per cent of the U.S. respondents know that English writer J.K. Rowling's fictional boy wizard is named Harry Potter, while only 50 per cent can name U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair.
  • 73 per cent can name the Three Stooges (Larry, Curly and Moe). Only 42 per cent could name the three branches of the U.S. government (judicial, executive and legislative).
  • 60 per cent of respondents knew that, on The Simpsons, Homer's son is named Bart. Only about 21 per cent could name one of the ancient Greek poet Homer's epics (The Iliad and The Odyssey)
  • Of those polled, 60 per cent could name Krypton as the home planet of Superman. Only 37 per cent could name Mercury as the closest planet to the sun.
  • While 23 per cent of poll participants know that Taylor Hicks is the most recent singer crowned American Idol, only 11 per cent could name Samuel Alito as the most recent judge to join the U.S. Supreme Court.

A consultant to the poll is quoted as saying:

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